Memory & Cognition

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 533–550 | Cite as

Recognizing cognates and interlingual homographs: Effects of code similarity in language-specific and generalized lexical decision

  • Kristin LemhöferEmail author
  • Ton Dijkstra


In four experiments, we investigated how cross-linguistic overlap in semantics, orthography, and phonology affects bilingual word recognition in different variants of the lexical decision task. Dutch-English bilinguals performed a language-specific or a generalized lexical decision task including words that are spelled and/or pronounced the same in English and in Dutch and that matched one-language control words from both languages. In Experiments 1 and 3, “false friends” with different meanings in the two languages (e.g.,spot) were presented, whereas in Experiments 2 and 4 cognates with the same meanings across languages (e.g.,film) were presented. The language-specific Experiments 1 and 2 replicated and qualified an earlier study (Dijkstra, Grainger, & Van Heuven, 1999). In the generalized Experiment 3, participants reacted equally quickly on Dutch-English homographs and Dutch control words, indicating that their response was based primarily on the fastest available orthographic code (i.e., Dutch). In Experiment 4, cognates were recognized faster than English and Dutch controls, suggesting coactivation of the cognates’ semantics. The nonword results indicate that the bilingual rejection procedure can, to some extent, be language specific. All results are discussed within the BIA+ (bilingual interactive activation) model for bilingual word recognition.


Word Recognition Lexical Decision Lexical Decision Task Control Word Orthographic Representation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NICIUniversity of NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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